We lie in as you always do on an overnight transport day. Checkout time etched into your memory as the farewell date to your ensuite.
We wander down our restaurant heavy road and stop at a tiny door front with a sign saying “beef noodle soup”. A restaurant that only serves one dish is always worth trying, as repetition creates perfection. We enter and the Lady shouts “Pho” at us, the Vietnamese national dish. A reminder of the proximity of the neighbour, the porous nature of borders and the fact we’re in a capital city with cosmopolitan options.
The twist in Laos though is that you flavour it yourself. The stock is meaty and simple but the table has fish sauce, vinegar, soy seasoning, fish paste, pepper, salt, chilli flakes which you add to your own taste. You are also given fresh mint, holy basil, lime, watercress, peanut sauce and chilli sauce to add.
Breakfast over, we head to Les Trios coffee shop for more delicious Laos coffee. The coffee here is the most intense I’ve tasted anywhere so if you like your coffee dark and rich I’d urge you to seek out some Laos coffee. We sit and blog and just watch time go by.
We stroll along leafy, dusty streets and we spot a delicatessen which we are always curious to explore. It has jars of capers, French sticks and real Camembert wheels, a reminder that Laos was a French colony.
Vientiane is the most laid back capital city I’ve visited. Its hot, dusty streets have a relaxed charm that defy the normal hustle and bustle you encounter in a nations centre. There isn’t a huge amount of sights to see, but sitting on a sweeping bend of the majestic Mekong it is a wonderful place to explore for a few days. I really like it.
We wait outside the hostel. The sun goes down and mosquitoes appear. We spray our uncovered skin. Around 6pm a songthaew appears for us and as I pickup my rucksack a cloud of about 20 mossies fly off it. Time to go.
We cruise the streets stopping at hostels and hotels to pickup tourists. It’s always fun to gauge how successful your choice of accommodation was. Thirty minutes after we were picked up, we drive past our hostel again. After about an hour we drive out of the centre and eventually come to a bus station which we see is the northern station for buses headed north to the north of Laos. We are going south. A bloke in a pink coat appears and hands a bundle of cash to our driver, who then asks us who is going north. Those that are get off. The driver hands the cash to someone else and then we’re off again, back into the centre of town. We drive for a long time. We pull up alongside a closed shop and wait. We are wondering what we’re doing when pink coat bloke appears on a scooter and another bundle of cash is handed to our driver. At 8.10pm we arrive at the southern bus terminal where our tickets are taken and new ones issued and we find our mobile overnight accommodation. We are very pleased to find we have been allocated a bed and even happier to find it empty. It may be small but we can both fit in snuggly.
Lights out and we’re off. It is soon apparent that we won’t get much sleep due to the uneven Laos road surfaces but you have to be careful what you wish for, as after an hour of a unique type of Laos massage, getting pummelled and thrown around, a problem with the gearbox means our journey is over for now while the driver and his mate perform roadside repairs. I use the opportunity of the breakdown to finally sleep.